UNA hosts 100th anniversary ROTC celebration

Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps students participate in the UNA Army ROTC-hosted JROTC Challenge March 1, 2014. ROTC will host another challenge as part of the 100th Anniversary of ROTC April 23.

In the year Coca-Cola introduced its legendary formula to the market, 1916, another American tradition was born: The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

UNA is helping ROTC celebrate its 100th anniversary through a series of events April 21-23, said Professor of Military Science Lt. Col. William Pruett. The events include a military history symposium, dedication ceremony in the Memorial Garden, a 5K Camo Run and a Junior ROTC challenge.

“The cadet command commanding general has asked universities that host ROTC programs to help her celebrate that, and that’s what we’re doing here at UNA,” Pruett said.

ROTC will host the military history symposium April 21-22 as part of UNA Research Days, he said. The event will include student presentations about the history of ROTC and presentations from authors and military historians, he said.

When the symposium ends April 22, there will be a dedication ceremony for a new plaque containing the names of commissioned ROTC officers from 2015, said Recruiting Operations Officer Jose Atencio.

“The university has put together a commemorative garden for us with all of our commissionees’ names on it,” Atencio said. “We’ve filled up a bronze plaque of new names, and we’re going to unveil (it).”

The commemorative garden holds the names of every ROTC student who graduated from UNA since the program came to campus in 1950, he said. This plaque will bring the garden up-to-date with the graduates from 2015.

While this is something significant to celebrate, Atencio said there is a bigger number to celebrate this year.

“We’re on track this year to have the largest commissioning class since 1989,” he said. “We’ll have 16 total commissionees at the end of this year.”

The celebration continues April 23 with the 5K Camo Run, Pruett said. Proceeds from the event go to the student-managed UNA Army ROTC cadet fund, he said. Or, participants can earmark their registration fee toward the American Military Legacy scholarship, he said. This scholarship funds a UNA Army ROTC cadet, he said.

“It was established by Col. Buddy Brooks, who was also a UNA Army ROTC alumn(us),” Pruett said. “He’s also using that 5K run as essentially a fundraising event for that scholarship.”

The run is part of the JROTC challenge, he said. High school students in JROTC programs compete against each other in a physical challenge on campus. UNA ROTC cadets plan, supervise and judge the competition, he said.

“This will be a great event to take part (in),” said junior and ROTC cadet Jose Figueroa-Cifuentes. “There will only be one 100th anniversary of Army ROTC. If we want to be part of history at UNA, participating in this event will be one for the books.”

Figueroa-Cifuentes said he is excited about the event and has been promoting it by word-of-mouth across campus.

Pruett said he encourages students and local community members to visit the Department of Military Science in the Wesleyan Hall Annex to learn more about the program and its benefits.

“Just because (students) are in ROTC doesn’t mean they aren’t involved in other things normal college students are,” he said. “They’re just doing more. All those things you could imagine students do on campus, our students cadets are involved in as well.

“What we’re involved in is leadership development. It’s not just developing officers, although, that’s our primary mission and purpose. I think that ROTC programs bring students with leadership skills to the campus and also back out to the communities.”